“for anyone who’d like to go. It’s totally free!” And with thanks to 99% Solidarity, my colleagues and I in Occupy Media were on our way to Chicago. Or, so we thought.
May 6, 5:12pm Pacific Time. Rene posts the notice and I’m one of the first to sign up. First area of confusion: Their front page says there’ll be a bus from San Francisco, where I live, but the sign up page only lists Oakland, which is across the bay. I don’t mind, but I sent them an email asking for clarification anyway.
As the days pass, I receive no reply, but half of our Media team is signed up to go! What an adventure! The bus will have WiFi and movies and even food. Krissana and Rene will take photos, James will video stream and I’ll record and edit video on the road. Rene and I set up webpages so we can also blog. Almost everyone buys a gas mask, just to be safe and packing commences en masse. Go team! A kind friend loans me a laptop, which I set up for my work. Motorcycle ready for storage. Schedules rearranged.
What a great idea! I can’t afford a vacation and we love to work hard and play hard in my circle. “Have you been to Chicago before?” “Does a layover in O’Hare count?”
May 13, 7:00pm. The team meets at my place to discuss details. I’m still searching for a gas mask. Everyone wants to know why 99solidarity.net still shows “TBD” when we look up the departure time and location for our bus. We figure it will probably leave on the evening of the 14th or the day of the 15th. People signing up later than us tell us the website is now displaying “Waiting List” when you try to get on the Oakland bus list.
James tells me he’s also emailed 99% Solidarity, and also has received no reply. He’s made a couple of calls, he says, and then makes more calls during the meeting. We still get no answers.
May 14, morning. The following notice appears on 99solidarity.net :
Oakland and San Francisco Buses Cancelled
Unfortunately, 99% Solidarity and National Nurses United must cancel the buses planned for Oakland and San Francisco. Currently there are only 45 sign-ups from both San Francisco and Oakland areas combined, even when the waitlist is included. This is below the required 50 people needed for one bus.
We were looking forward to having our fellow occupiers from these two amazing occupations be part of the 99% Solidarity Chicago bus trips, meet with you, and march together. We are already planning ahead for the rest of the year all the way to Occupy Inauguration. We sincerely hope that we can work together to plan and mobilize for upcoming actions.
Five people? Is that all? We could have made some calls and gotten that many in an hour. Everyone starts posting in the comments: “Why haven’t you replied to us?” “You have a Wait List but then cancel because of poor response?”
Still no word.
May 14th mid morning. Krissana and Rene search for alternative ways to get to Chicago. They find a guy I’ve heard of before. He’s fixing up vegetable oil-powered bus for a cross country trip and he’s advertising on Craig’s List for passengers to contribute to the cost. To say we’re poor here is to understate reality. I set up a WePay account to see what we can do to raise funds.
All of us commence posing it everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, emails, websites.
May 15 5:28am. “notinthespotlight”, apparently someone with 99% Solidarity, posts in the comments:
Apology of not answering all these quicker. We are overwhelmed by this project. It really pains me and my colleagues to see all these comments and speculation in part due to our lack of resources to keep up all emails, voice mails, phone calls, twitter questions, FB posting and comments here. We do welcome your inquiries and challenges, and will try harder to answer them on time. We just put on Twitter, FB, some more detailed accounts. In short, the bus underwriter NNU [National Nurses United] has both budgetary and other concerns for West Coast buses.
We will speak for our part. 99% Solidairty made the mistake of not spotting unusually high amount of duplicates in OSF/OO sign-up before bus booking deadline.
99Solidarity is a new group. This project started first as 50 to 100 occupiers max with 1 or 2 buses from NYC. Got to 18 cities & over 1000 sign-ups. End up not being able to accommodate 9 citi/200 peep for reasons of budget & required numbers. We end up with 800+ occupiers going to Chicago. Our goal is to get nationally coordinated OWSers to Chicago to make our voices loud and clear; and to foster better organization among occupiers. While the response was wonderful, we have been seriously under capacity.
We’d love to have OSF and OO to be part of this trip. The confusion was massive duplication. We have average 10% duplication among the 1,000 signups. Without enough vetted volunteers who we would feel safe to access full sign-up sheet with private information to constantly de-dup, we start wait-listing around 50 for each city/route as a best estimate. OSF/OO had very slow start for reason we didn’t understand. Once we combined the two locations, it got to 63 by deadline including wait lists from both occupies and kept going. But when we eventually get around to do de-dup, it was down to 45 include waitlists.
Fri last week, we were risking losing all West Cost buses which cost $24-27k each. We started to raise money from scratch, but NNU came through with four buses right before deadline, 3 for LA, 1 for Portland, but OSF/OO was not included. There has been budget & possible other concerns by NNU. They are the donor of the buses and have underwritten 17 of them. We have not been able to change their decision of canceling the Bay Area bus. For our part, we can only try to find alternative over the weekend and continue to do so till now.
We’ve been working with NNU, SF/OO bus captain, co-captain, ground coordinator on daily basis, and we may still have a chance to bring some Bay area activists through our buses to Chicago.
“budgetary and other concerns”? Everyone posts replies, but there’s no response as to what that means… no response at all.
May 15 10:00am. I call Chuck Idelson, Communications Director of NNU. I get ahold of him on his cell phone and am cheerful. He did not want to talk.
“99% Solidarity cancelled your bus.” he tells me.
“They’re saying you did.” I reply.
“You have to call and ask them.” he says.
“So, they point the finger at you and you point back to them?”
May 15 1:36pm. I’m just finishing up the writing of this story when someone else posts in the comments at 99solidarity.net:
Alexandra @ Oakland says:
May 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm
Hello Faithful Peepl of OO & SF,
We are so sorry for the fiasco from lack of communication. I am one of the many organizers. I also understand OO/SF bus was cancelled by the group paying for buses. I am happy to talk to you about details.
We are making other plans to get you there. Please call me (# below) if you still want to go with a group. One option would leave TODAY (Tuesday 5.15.12 early evening). It is really important that this flagship part of the Movement be represented in Chicago!
Again, I am so sorry that you have all been caught up in this lack of transparency too. I understand the bad taste it leaves and we want to resolve as much of this as possible. Please call me for more information. ~ In Peace, Alexandra @ 510.xxx.xxxx
BTW, the time stamp is on east coast time. it’s now 1:14pm in East Bay
I drop everything and call her immediately. Well, there’s a fine how do you do! It turns out the slight problem with the busses turned out to be a perfect excuse to cancel our bus. Why? Because while the rank and file nurses are more likely to support Occupy, the governing board of their local affiliate, The California Nurses Association, seems to think that Oakland = Occupy Oakland = violence, and cancelled the bus. Of course, we know and love OO, and they’re not like that, but there you are. Alexandra promised to work hard to get us on a bus and into Chicago.
How will it turn out? Will our heroes make it? Will evil forces thwart their plans? Stay tuned!
We are up to $410 to take us all to Chicago and back. Not quite where we need to be. If you’d like to make a donation, we’d very much appreciate it! If you’d like to contact the folks who scheduled then cancelled the bus, please be polite when you speak to them.
We are on the bus eo to L.A. right now! We stop there at 5:30am, jump in a cab to meet the other bus and then off to Chicago! The second bus driver says he’ll only wait 15 minutes, but if he leaves without us, I’ll put an Italian curse on him! OK, just kidding. Wish us luck!
California Nurses Association